Ryan and I share our thoughts on the Falcons disappoint loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 1. Which includes how we grade out the offensive line and Joe Hawley and Garrett Reynold’s first starts. We also discuss the loss of Jonathan Babineaux and which players step up to fill that void, including the possibility of whether that is Carlton Powell, Ryan’s new favorite player. We also break down our thoughts on how to beat the Eagles in Week 2. Coaching changes, Thomas DeCoud, Matt Bosher, and Kroy Biermann are also topics of discussion.
The safety position is relatively settled compared to most of the defense. The Falcons are firm at the starting positions, and already have their top backup penciled in.
William Moore and Thomas DeCoud will come back for another year as starters, and hopefully will begin to grow together. DeCoud particularly needs to have a stronger year since he is on the verge of free agency after the season. Moore needs to prove he can stay healthy, after being plagued by injuries throughout the first year of his career.
The top backup position will likely go to Shann Schillinger, replacing Erik Coleman. Schillinger is coming off an ankle injury, which reports indicate is only at about 85% as of the beginning of the month. Getting him back to full speed will be important. If not, then the Falcons may seek to add a veteran as an insurance policy, similar to what they did last summer with Matt Giordano.
Rafael Bush is the other safety on the roster and stands a decent chance of making the roster after spending most of last season on the practice squad. However the Falcons likely will want to add another couple of bodies to promote competition, particularly some bigger, more physical strong safeties. That likely will come in undrafted free agency. The Falcons are likely to keep only four safeties, with an open competition for that final spot.
Recapping the news and headlines involving the Falcons from the week of July 3…
Gonzo goes Hollywood
The humor website Funny or Die published a spoof on the 1989 film Field of Dreams entitled Field of Dreams 2: Lockout which featured several NFL players including current Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. The short film stars Taylor Lautner of Twilight fame and features other NFL players such as Ray Lewis, Dwight Freeney, DeSean Jackson, Shawne Merriman, and Antonio Cromartie among others. Actors Ray Liotta, Dennis Haysbert, and Kevin Costner also make appearances.
Spoon works out with former Mizzou teammates
Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has been working out with fellow University of Missouri teammates this off-season to help stay in shape due to the NFL lockout. This weekend he along with other former Tigers will be in Springfield, MO, participating in a celebrity golf pro-am tournament, youth football camp, and NFL players autograph session sponsored by Lorenzo Williams. WIlliams played defensive end at Missouri (2004-07), before being an NFL undrafted free agent in 2008, and spending some time on the Carolina Panthers practice squad that winter. Other ex-Tigers in the NFL participating at Saturday’s youth camp will include two first round picks from this past April’s draft: QB Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars) and LB Aldon Smith (49ers), along with WR Danario Alexander (Rams), TE Chase Coffman (Bengals), WR Jeremy Maclin (Eagles), TE Martin Rucker (Cowboys), and WR Brad Smith (Jets). (Source: Jon Poorman, Springfield News-Leader)
DeCoud hosts local charity event
Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud will be co-hosting a charity event called Fresh Steps, designed to benefit Kennedy Middle School in Atlanta. It will be a fashion show featuring sneakers, including a “Battle of the Brands” between Nike and Reebok shoes. It will take place at the nearby 595 North Event Venue & Lounge on Friday evening from 8:30 pm to 11. Along with DeCoud, former Falcon and current Denver Bronco cornerback Chevis Jackson and current Chicago Bear wideout Earl Bennett will be hosting the event. (Source: Jenna Herb, NBC 11Alive.com)
Shann Schillinger was the Falcon’s final choice in their 2010 draft class, taken in the sixth round out of Montana. Schillinger wound up playing in fifteen games this year, missing the season finale after breaking his ankle in the Falcons Monday Night loss against the Saints in Week 16.
For the year, Schillinger took a grand total of 3 snaps on regular defense, which came in the garbage minutes in a blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2. He recorded no tackles on defense, but did get 8 stops on special teams, including 2 stops on kickoff coverage that earned him a little by via Moneyball.
Overall, it was a pretty non-descript season for the rookie safety, who turned 25 on Sunday. But Schillinger could be in a position to make a bigger impact with the team in 2011. Since fracturing his ankle, the team let go of veteran safety Erik Coleman and did not take a safety in the draft, as some expected them to do. That means that Schillinger will enter this summer as the team’s top backup at safety. A vital position considering how injury-prone safeties are at this level.
It’s probable that the team’s hope for Schillinger’s future is one of the reasons they chose not to bring back Coleman for the final year of his contract. Schillinger won’t be pushing either of the starter’s but he could be taking a page from starting free safety Thomas DeCoud.
Took a break on Saturday, and I’m coming back with a scouting report on an up and coming defender in the Falcons secondary: free safety Thomas DeCoud.
Pros: Has good speed which allows him range to make plays in centerfield. Shows ball skills to make a play on the pass and break up an errant throw over the middle. Has good closing burst to deliver hit to ballcarrier.
Cons: A bit undersized, and tends to rely on hitting rather than wrapping as a tackler. Doesn’t have great hands, and can be prone to dropping interceptions.
2010 Outlook: DeCoud had a breakout 2009 season, after doing very little in 2008. The Falcons are hopeful that he can show similar improvement from 2009 to 2010.
Looking back over the Falcons-related news from the past week…
The media got a chance to hear from the Falcons top brass during this week’s owners meetings. D-Led has a nice write-up on a Q&A session that occurred there with head coach Mike Smith. We learned that Smitty supports the changes to overtime, although that’s not too surprising since Rich McKay is co-chair of the competition committee, and the Falcons should be on board with all the proposals.
We also learned from Smith during the week that defensive tackle Peria Jerry and wide receiver Harry Douglas, both recovering from season-ending knee injuries last year won’t be participating in spring mini-camps and OTAs, but will be shooting to return at the end of July for training camp. Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are back and ready to go now. And safety William Moore is simply “progressing” with no known timetable on when he will be completely recovered from his injury a year ago. (Source: Pat Yasinskas, ESPN)
Brent Grimes and Thomas DeCoud were the biggest earners this year for the Falcons in the performance-based pay system. (Source: D-Led, AJC)
Also interesting to note that Falcons safety Erik Coleman has been the biggest earner overall since the league instituted the system in 2002. (Source: Tim Yotter, Scout.com)
Beefing Up the Middle
The Falcons appear to be very interested in getting stronger up the middle along their offensive line, having scheduled several workouts this week with draft prospects. They are working out three center prospects this weekend: Matt Tennant (Boston College), J.D. Walton (Baylor), and Ted Larsen (N.C. State). The team also has unspecified upcoming workouts with Maurice Pouncey (Florida) and Mike Iupati (Idaho) who are often predicted to be first round picks. Indiana offensive tackle Rodger Saffold also will work out with the Falcons this past week, who many project as a possible guard. (Sources: FalcFans Draft Central)
They are being speculated as a potential destination for Miami Dolphins guard Justin Smiley. (Source: Armando Salguero, Miami Herald)
The Falcons had a busy week of visiting pro days, attending those of N.C. State, Connecticut, and Central Michigan this past Wednesday. They checked out UNLV’s on Thursday. You can find out more information on which prospects the Falcons are targetting at FalcFans Draft Central.
It’s been a little more than a week of camp, and here’s a brief recap of the players that have raised (or lowered) their stock in that time, based upon published reports.
Thomas DeCoud – Although DeCoud may win the starting gig by default due to an injury to William Moore that will likely keep him out for the rest of the summer, it’s quite possible he would have won the job outright. Most observers have come away praising DeCoud for his ballhawking skills so far this summer.
Brent Grimes – By my own assessment, Grimes entered camp seemingly on the outside looking in. But at this point, he seems to be the early favorite to win the job opposite Chris Houston. Although we should point out that Grimes was impressive in camp last summer, but his play during the regular season was less than stellar. But his stock is also boosted by the fact that he might be the early favorite to replace Harry Douglas as the team’s punt returner with strong showings in preseason games.
Vance Walker – Walker got some early praise from Mike Smith in the opening days of camp. While Walker has no shot of becoming a starter, if he keeps it up, he should certainly land a roster spot and help the team’s rotation.
Jamaal Anderson – Fairly or unfairly, Anderson has a bulls-eye upon him this summer as one of the players that not only Falcon fans, but pundits nationwide are looking to see if he steps up. And in his case, no news isn’t good news. While we’re not saying Anderson is behind in his battle with Chauncey Davis, the fact that he hasn’t pulled ahead significantly by this point doesn’t bode particularly well for him.
Chevis Jackson – Like Anderson, Jackson is fighting for a starting spot, and thus far there have been few reports citing his strong play early in camp. It’s conceivable that if he doesn’t pick it up he could fall all the way to fourth on the depth chart after entering camp as the expected starter.
Roddy White – You won’t count us as one of the Falcon fans that were upset by Roddy’s holdout. But his rep was shaken in the eyes of many, and he’ll have to use the remaining weeks to earn it back. We have little doubt he will.
D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC reports that the team has had Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud switch safety positions. Coleman was the starting free safety, but will now man the strong safety position that DeCoud was previously working at. The move might be prompted by the injury to William Moore, who was competing with DeCoud for the starting strong safety position. Moore is expected to be out up to four weeks.
DeCoud played free safety during his time at California, and worked at free safety for most of last year. Coleman has played both safety positions during his career, although he started every game at free safety last year.
The AJC reports that Falcons safety William Moore is expected to miss 1 to 4 weeks due to a recent procedure performed on his left knee. Moore is in the midst of a roster battle with Thomas DeCoud for the starting strong safety position opposite Erik Coleman. This loss likely will give DeCoud a significant edge in winning the job for the start of the regular season.
There should be some of the fiercest competition on the roster in the secondary this summer. Erik Coleman seems locked in as the starting free safety. But at the other safety spot, William Moore and Thomas DeCoud are set to compete. Chris Houston is probably a longshot to lose his starting job this summer, but could be challenged somewhat if he doesn’t have a strong summer. The other corner spot will be up for grabs however.
Competing for that vacant corner spot will be Chevis Jackson, Von Hutchins, Brent Grimes, and Chris Owens. Jackson is currently ahead on the depth chart, but there have been reports that the team would rather have him working inside as the nickel corner this year. That opens up opportunity for the others. Hutchins has the experience, but missed all of last year with injury, and will need to bounce back with a really strong summer. Owens has the speed the team would like to see outside, but he’s a rookie and with veterans ahead of him, it might be best to bring him along a bit more slowly. Grimes handled the gig for the first half of last year before losing his job to Domonique Foxworth. He’ll need to re-instill confidence in the coaching staff. He’s tough and fast, but undersized and it showed too often last year. Unless he’s grown a few inches, he’ll be hard-pressed to win.
Without a strong summer, Grimes could find himself released by the team since he didn’t show great special teams ability last yera.
Also in the mix are David Irons and William Middleton. Both players are likely only going to play on special teams this year. The team likes Middleton’s athleticism, which means he may have greater upside on defense than Irons, who has only gotten a handful of snaps there in the past two seasons.
As for safety, William Moore is probably the safer bet since he’s a better fit for the scheme at strong safety and has much greater upside. But Moore will need to show he’s not a liability in coverage, something that he proved to be on occasion while at Missouri last year. DeCoud is not stellar in coverage either, but is a bit undersized than what the team is looking for at the position. But he’s got a year’s worth of experience over Moore and thus could potentailly have a shorter learning curve as a starter.
Jamaal Fudge has more experience, performing well in a season finale start last year. But he’s only likely looked up on as a fallback option in case either Moore or DeCoud don’t work out. Also in the mix at safety are Eric Brock and Antoine Harris who will need to show ability on special teams and in coverage on defense to stick, since at best they will only be used in the occasional dime package there. Also at corner are Tony Tiller and Glenn Sharpe, both of whom are unlikely to land a roster spot, but could wind up on the practice squad.
The Falcons will likely keep up to ten defensive backs on the roster. Right now, the safe bets for the starting spots appear to be Jackson and Moore, but Owens and DeCoud aren’t bad options as dark horses.